With Holiday Spending, It's the Unexpected Costs That Kill Your Christmas Buzz

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 11.

If you want to avoid releasing your inner Grinch this holiday season, keep an eye on those unexpected costs you didn't see coming.

Experian, the credit ratings provider, calls them "unanticipated" costs in a new report and warns they can really lead to higher financial stress levels into the holiday season and beyond.

"According to the survey, most stress comes from unexpected added expenses beyond gifts, such as postage costs, hostess gifts, gift-wrapping supplies and greeting cards," Experian says in an email to TheStreet. "On average, consumers reported spending $288 on unexpected expenses in past years, and 31% said they accrued credit card debt as a result."

Debt specialists agree, stating that holiday consumers should keep an eye on the little things that add up, and that can upend even the most carefully cultivated November/December spending budget.

"Some of the biggest unexpected costs I've seen are postage, holiday activities (especially for those with children), impulse buys of $5.00 or less, and food," says Ashley Narcisse, owner of Budget Brain Consulting, in Fort Worth, Tx.

Narcisse cites shipping costs, which tend to rise during the holiday season due to increased demand, as a big budget-busting culprit. "If people are ordering online, it might be more cost efficient to have the items shipped to the store for free," she says. "Of course, that involves lines, but they can save big bucks on shipping."

Then there are holiday activities like tree lighting ceremonies, ice skating, and holiday festivals, which are packed with unexpected costs because most people don't account for the price of food while enjoying the festivities. "You've got kettle corn, hot chocolate, and roasted almonds," she says. "Holiday revelers also don't account for additional costs, such as parking and add-ons like photos with Santa Claus."

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